The combined membership, should a merger go through, would be around three million, making it the largest union in the world.
The past decade has seen cooperation between various US and European unions, including those representing telecommunications workers and security guard and janitorial unions. The United Steelworkers has been building alliances with overseas unions since the early 1990s, as steel production became a global business.
These alliances see unions sharing research, bargaining strategies and supporting each other during strikes.
Unions are famous for resisting change and globalisation, so the move to go global may seem odd. But Gerald Fernandez, head of international affairs at United Steelworkers, says: "We determined that the best way to fight financial globalisation was to fight it globally."
As unions become global, champions of globalisation will have to decide if it is because globalisation benefits global investors and not governments and national unions; or if they believe governments and workers should go global too.
Unions for a Global Economy
Author: Harold Meyerson
Source: Washington Post, April 26, 2007
Reviewed by Jennifer Whitehead